The Hi-Lo Country

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

You can suffocate a child with warmth, you can kill a bird with affection. Trying so hard to do right, does wrong. It happens here.

British director, Stephen Frears, went to New Mexico to make a film from Max Evans' novel that Sam Peckinpah had tried for decades to put together. Frears invited Walon Green, who wrote The Wild Bunch for Sam, to script it. There is history oozing under these doorjams.

This is the story of a friendship between two men who share a passion for a woman who is married to someone else. It is also about the changing face of the Western, a requiem for the cowboy.

Pete (Billy Crudup) lives on his own in a lonely house, way off on the prairie. Big Boy Matson (Woody Harrelson) has worked horses and cattle all his life. He has the confidence and courage of a man who fears nothing but a woman's lie.

Mona (Patricia Arquette) is married to the cattle baron's foreman. She is bored and hot. She needs to be appreciated. The situation is explosive, the landscape bathed in dusk/dawn light, so beloved by foreign directors. The pace is slow. Crudup is a serious actor who digs deep. Pete doesn't go down that far. Harrelson proves once again that he is a fine physical performer and Arquette hints at the sexuality of Rita Hayworth.

The film is missing something. It has the pedigree and the cinematography and the high cheekbones. What it doesn't have is danger.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Will a woman come between two men's friendship?
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Director: Stephen Frears

Writer: Max Evans, Walon Green

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup, Patricia Arquette, Cole Hauser, Penlope Cruz, Enrique Castillo, Darren E Burrows, Jacob Vargas, Robert Knott, Sam Elliott

Year: 1998

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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